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5 Tech Tips to Engage Millennials in the Classroom



I knew teaching an Executive Leadership graduate class of millennials would rank exceptionally high on the challenge meter. If asked about the degree of difficulty, I give it a 10 and say it’s like Stage 1 episode of American Ninja Warrior. You had better be prepared and in tip top shape when you enter the arena, particularly in tech, or your highly intelligent, digital native students might just put you on silent mode. I didn’t need the latest edition of the New Teachers Survival Guide to tell me so. As the parent of 2 millennials, 25 and 23, I gave them their first flip phone, BlackBerry, computer, iPod, iTunes account, laptop, and Wi-Fi connection – all in that order. Just as their world was changing, mine too was being reinvented by a plethora of digital devices, especially by the Smartphone.

Emerging technologies has caused a monumental shift in how we learn, especially for colleges and universities who must constantly innovate just to stay relevant. Like it or not, today’s college professor must use every digital tool at his or her disposal if they want to hold the attention of their social savvy, millennial students. This does not mean some sort of geekish reinvention of yourself but rather an attempt to utilize some of these tools to reimagine the classroom learning experience. Personally, I experimented with many different techniques my students appreciated, some worked, and some didn’t (they weren’t shy about telling me so).

Drum roll please. Here are the 5 tech tips that made the grade in the millennial classroom:

  1. Disrupt the PowerPoint. Nothing kills the attention graph faster than a boring PowerPoint. I made a very intentional decision to try out another presentation alternative for the first night of class and used a product called emaze. Not only did emaze offer attractive layout designs and cool transition effects, you could easily share the presentation via a public or private link and download the files to PDF (premium version only). Check out the link NYU SPS Executive Leadership Spring 2015 and see for yourself
  2. Go mobile. A graduate level course in Executive Leadership requires adherence to a professional code of conduct, extreme punctuality, and making yourself available for office hours. I used mobile technology like texting for emergencies and Facetime and Skype for virtual office hours. Face-to-face meetings went mobile too with alerts and appointment reminders that showed up on my iPhone 6 Plus. The result 99% of my students were on-time!
  3. Use gamification. Who doesn’t love to play a game and have fun in the process? I used a paid app called Decide Now to breathe a competitive spirit to the dreaded midterm leadership assignment. As we sat in a close-knit circle, students each took a turn “spinning the wheel” to decide the order of making oral presentations. That class was ranked in the top 3 as one of the best and most engaging. 
    Customize the app with any of your own labels. Here’s A quick video to show the Decide Now app in action!
  4. Share resources on social. I found many pertinent articles and resources to benefit my students. Social media, particularly Twitter, allowed me to share these links in an instant and quite easily. I saved valuable time by posting the link one time on Twitter instead of opening an email application, writing a group message, and then distributing it. This same Tweet could be retweeted by my students, favorited for archiving, and passed on to their circles if they wanted to share leadership articles of interest.
  5. Supplement with YouTube. I used YouTube to supplement discussions in class and readings in our textbook, “Business Leadership” by Joan V. Gallos. These videos added a 4th dimension to the material and facilitated a more meaningful dialogue of leadership theory and history. For example, we watched the renowned “I Have a Dream Speech” by one of the most influential leaders of the American civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and met award winning business and management thought Dr. John P. Kotter, Harvard Business School Professor through his website. 

I hope you’ll try some of these tips out for yourself. Please take a moment to like this post and comment with some of your own suggestions.

Millennials, please chime in, there’s over 77 million of you!


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